Brie Larson narrates the acclaimed documentary directed by Louis Schwartzberg, starring Paul Stamets, Michael Pollan, Eugenia Bone, other iconic experts, scientists, and of course, the mycelium network.
Jackee: Delic Radio. Hello. Hi. Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Delic Radio, where we have psychedelic conversations with experts. Experts like the one we have on today’s show Louie Schwartzberg. Oh, I really like Louie. Louie Schwartzberg, also known as Louis Schwartzberg is an American director, producer, and cinematographer. And of course, him as the director and creator of Fantastic Fungi. Go to fantasticfungi.com to check out the movie, and there’s a bunch of educational resources on there, and deep dives and things about book. It’s a really popular movie within the psychedelic movement.
And to beat Louie is a really cool dude. Very talented cinematographer and filmmaker, and a rare breed in the Los Angeles area because he’s actually a decent person. He’s fun to talk to. And I caught up with Louie about filmmaking and storytelling, which of course is really important in this movement that we are making to de-stigmatize the psychedelic conversation because why? Because life is psychedelic people. Prove it to me that it’s not. Psychedelics are mainstream. So, let’s figure out what that means.
Before we get into today’s show, I want to tell you about a little ditty called the delic.com where your journey begins. Oh, yes. You know, on this journey of discovery, we’re constantly uncovering who we are one step at a time. Along the way, we find tools to aid and comfort us. The Delic is full of resources to help you find your experience and upgrade your journey. Seek and you shall find when using our free plant medicine experiences directory, upgrade your toolbox while inside the Delic shop, and visit our blog for some storytelling tips along the way. So, go visit the delic.com, sign up for our newsletter, and get a percentage off. Thank you for visiting. Thank you for listening. We love you.
Delic Radio. Okay, my friend. We were talking about your inspiration, where it all started, which is college right around the end of the ’70s or in the ’70s, which seems like a perfect time to learn storytelling, and also be inspired by what’s going on politically in the world, and have psychedelics more at your fingertips than they are today.
Louie Shwartzberg: I mean, we were actually only two weeks away from Earth Day 50th anniversary when we had the largest protest ever in America or around the world, I believe, where people came out to say we got to protect mother earth. And also it’s so similar in terms of the emergence of a shift of consciousness. People wanting to stop a war to be able to live more sustainably as well as psychedelics, and liberation movements for women and people of color. It all hit like a focal point right there. And also there was a lot of idiotic resistance. The similarities between Richard Nixon and Donald Trump is pretty obvious. So, we are going through the same cycle in some ways.
Jackee: Yeah, I’m just writing down idiotic resistance because I think that’s amazing. And the world, of course, we’re feeling it in America from the government, and the powers that be currently there. But I think there’s a lot of idiotic resistance in general within our culture. A lot of different buckets of resistance, especially when it comes to psychedelics. But okay, so film, you shot a lot. Did you shoot a lot of stills when you were learning how or did you go directly to film?
Louie Shwartzberg: I shot stills because, as I said, I started filming of the anti-war protest. Police brutality against women. It was amazing how these guys would just swing their batons and just club anybody on campus. Photography obviously is less expensive than film. And so, I got into fine art photography, because back then, to be honest, like all the film schools pretty lame. I mean, they were teaching old school things like how to edit or how to edit like Gunsmoke, a TV show. The fine art department was really where I was able to flower, and be able to find my voice to be able to do things that were crazy, outlandish, to crumple up the paper, to throw high contrast chemicals on top of it, to manipulate the image, and to be an artist. Those opportunities existed over there.
And so, for at least two years, Jackee, you’d love this. I shot nothing but double, triple, quadruple exposures all in camera. And so, I’d go out and I’d shoot the beach. I’d go to the desert, shoot the desert. I’d shoot mannequins and store windows and randomly they would all blend together. And every once in a while, man, you just hit something that just blew your mind. And the idea of having control and letting go as an artist is really beautiful. It’s kind of the creative process, the idea of serendipity.
And so, that took me through that in my college years, then I finally got into the film department. But again, you can’t afford to shoot movie films, so I started to develop time lapse because time lapse, again, enabled me to manipulate time and to look at life as the clouds unfolded and flowers unfolded and nobody had ever done that before in 35 millimeter movie film. It had been done in 16. You can have a Bolex camera. You can use your finger go click, click. But I was always into high resolution. I loved Ansel Adams, Edward Weston, all the beautiful landscape photographers were my hero.
So, it’s all about resolution. It was all about shooting fine grain film. And that enabled me to do it because 35 millimeter movie film was 100 bucks a minute back then. So, think about that for develop, process, and print. But if I did time lapse, I could shoot for a month or two, and have all that experience, chase the light, learn about the patterns and rhythms of nature. How do you capture the perfect moment? That’s all time, and it enabled me to feel really good about shooting high quality, high resolution film. So the film I shot back in the ’70s I still use today on my series on Netflix, for example. The first kind of 4K HDR on Netflix. Nobody really knows that a lot of it was filmed in the ’70s when the only people who were shooting video was NTSC 500 lines, or the only people that shot 35 was really expensive high end commercials or big movies. And so, I’ve been shooting nonstop for four decades, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. And I’ve squeezed all of them to 16 hours of film.
Jackee: Wow. Talk about patience. Were you born patient? And I ask that because as a… I minored in film, and photography and my ailment as a producer has always been the craftsmanship part of it. The patience to load the film properly, to develop it properly. And so, yeah, to do that 24/7 sounds like some sort of record, but also a record in patience.
LS: It is patience, and it’s also I don’t want to waste a single second. Time is the most important asset you have. And so, if I’m out here Skyping with you, I’m in there filming at the same time. Obviously, it’s like I’m not watching grass grow. And so, I can get that going, and know that you can’t speed that process up. You can’t throw money at it, it takes time. And so, I execute that process so that we can all benefit from being able to look at life from a flowers point of view, right? That’s what plant medicine is all about. So, here’s a peek into that world as opposed to just trying to describe it with words. We can actually, I think, feel what it’s like to be a flower.
Jackee: Yeah. Wow, what a cool… And that’s what’s so cool about Fantastic Fungi, or fungi depending how you say it. I’m so curious in creating examples of my running thesis that life is psychedelic. It of course has some things to do with psychedelic plants or chemicals, but ultimately it’s already psychedelic, and we’re living in it, and we just can’t always see that. And so, you are using technology and experience and patience and wisdom to capture that in such a modern way and really using the mechanism that currently, most people really recognize that’s film or visual. We all react to things and learn visually, I think, more these days in the last 100 years than we have ever before, maybe, at least on film.
LS: Yeah. Well, visuals have become like language. The most common used language. 80% of the information we receive comes into our eyes. So, we’ve gone from just movies to TV shows to social networking, everybody has a camera. Everybody is sharing video with one another. We got to imagine if when I was in college, none of that ever happened at all. The only people that dealt with imagery were journalists, were wedding photographers, professionals, only professionals. Think about that for a moment. And your audience I know that is a young audience. Imagine if the only people that were sharing imagery were wedding photographers, and news crews, and high end feature films.
Jackee: Yeah. When I was younger, that was still the case in the ’80s for the most part, and even in the ’90s. I learned on film right before everything went digital. So, I was lucky enough to get to touch and feel the medium in that way. And going back to psychedelics I’ve talked to Rick Doblin about this a few times, and he’s talked openly just to crowds about the importance of using cinema, and visual storytelling in this new psychedelic renaissance to inspire people and to get to their hearts. And also is just like a super hack, right? Like it’s the mission is to do it soon, and to normalize psychedelics as a way of treating mental health, but also general consciousness expansion. What better way than the Hollywood route? And you’re doing just that.
LS: Well, thank you. I just want to take people on a journey through time and scale, make the invisible visible. Turn people on to things that are too slow, too fast, too small, too vast for the naked eye to see. And without being preachy you’re just showing people that there are other realities. That there are other points of view. That there’s other ways of looking at life through different frame rates, metabolic rates. The way a Redwood tree looks at you, the way a flea looks at you, totally different. And we can appreciate that every living creature has its own metabolic rate, which I would say is almost equivalent to its own frame rate. We’re stuck at 24 frames per second. That’s the human POV. There’s a lot of other POVs out there. We live 90, 100 years, a fly might live a week, a Redwood tree 500 years. Everybody’s got their own timeframe.
Jackee: I love that. So inclusive, and humans because we’re dominant species for now on earth, it’s easy to get into ego and forget. And I love that you’re showing people, moreover, telling them. We get people like you said, not in a preachy way because we get preached out a lot so much these days. And I think showing is so impactful these days. If you can successfully tell a story without being preachy, that’s amazing. And then in terms of metabolic rate now I was thinking of the Coronavirus or just viruses in general. It’s a world unseen. There’s this invisible monster affecting the world right now. And how cool would it be if you could one day eventually put that on film and capture a virus life cycle?
LS: Well, we actually do have the conversation regarding pandemics are in the movie Fantastic Fungi. And we did CGI modeling of viruses. Because fungi can eat viruses. Penicillin is a fungi, and it’s saved more human lives than any other medicine. So, we don’t know. There could easily be a fungi out there that might be the cure for Coronavirus, who knows? One thing for sure is we have to protect all the species from not being destroyed. Because that DNA, I mean, nobody knew penicillin would work. During the Civil War, they put moldy bread on a wound. People had olden home remedies. Oh, something that’s moldy could help fight bacteria. But when they isolated the molecule of penicillin, wow, that was a big breakthrough. And maybe there is other compounds out there that could potentially help. I mean, that’s what they do. So, we should definitely investigate it, I think, and put a lot of energy behind that.
Jackee: Yeah. Well, and it reminds me of LSD, of course, being derived from Ergot, which is a fungus that was found on rye bread, and eventually in the lab synthesized, and turned into the LSD compound that you can’t really get these days, but that Albert Hoffman found in the lab back in the ’40s, and that some… As I understand it, and I’m not I’m not a chemist or an expert on LSD academically, but the fungus itself is super toxic, really poisonous, but when you can grab a hold of it and understand it and break it apart and understand its metabolism, then you can reinterpret it to help people.
LS: Yeah, absolutely.
Jackee: All right. So, let’s talk about your inspirations, movie inspirations, filmmakers, and/or photographers.
LS: Well, I’d say my biggest inspiration is mother nature. It taught me everything about lighting, composition, movement, color, texture, still learning. Even with the flowers that I’ve been shooting nonstop every time I light the flower I’m learning something brand new. I’m still getting better at it. I would say in photography I was really inspired by Edward Weston. He shot these beautiful bell peppers that looked like a nude woman, or a walnut that looked like sand dunes. Just really incredible. I remember this great quote that really turned me on was, this is from Edward Weston. I’m an adventurer on a voyage of discovery eager to receive fresh impressions, ready for new horizons, not in the spirit of a militant conqueror to impose myself or my ideas, but to identify myself and then unify with whatever I’m able to recognize as significantly a part of me, the me of universal rhythms.
Jackee: Wow, that’s great. That really resonates with me.
LS: Yeah. And he lived through the ’60s. It’s a miracle that I could remember that too.
Jackee: Yeah, that was really good. Once you memorize something, it really sticks with you. That really illustrates the fine balance I think a lot of really well intended people are looking for. Using your light, using your voice, and using it for good, but without seeming self serving or without getting trapped into the ego part of it. I am still on my journey to figuring out how to do that, but it’s a daily struggle, a daily thing for me.
So, let’s talk about storytelling. So, you create film and you’re constantly capturing other parts of the world that you think are worth showing to tell stories, right? And the anatomy of storytelling. I mean, humans are storytellers. That’s what we do. If we can relax enough to be creative, and I hope that people are finding this forced isolation a time where they can really give back to their innate creativity, and something I say all the time is like, I think people forget that they’re just innately creative. By being human we think about creativity, and we think, “Oh, well, those are the fine arts, or that’s for Hollywood.” But no, no, everyone listening to this is creative, and that’s your superpower. You just have to… I find it extremely difficult to be creative the more stressed out I am.
That’s just really a way of being able to tell stories. And so, taking film and capturing films is one thing. But then telling a story is another. My question is when did you realize that you were also a storyteller? You wanted to be a storyteller, and is that also where you were sort of self taught and learned as you went on? And how is it today versus in the ’70s when you began capturing film?
LS: I think we all have a story to tell that’s inside of us. Even every film I make, I think, is almost like the same story. And I think we’re also ready now for a brand new story. The stories that I’ve been telling are about I think the nature’s intelligence about the interconnectedness of life. It’s the feminine story, not the male macho story of predator versus prey in terms of nature, killer be killed. That’s what we seem to only, tends to get made even on nature programming. So, Winds of Life, which I did is a Disney nature film. Meryl Streep is the voices of flower getting it on with bees, bats, hummingbirds, and butterflies, having to seduce them with her beauty and her aroma and her everything in order to move her DNA forward. Hello, what a beautiful story, right?
So that condenser led me to do Fantastic Fungi because plants are critical for our survival. I mean, pollinators that’s the only way to get a healthy food, fruits, nuts, vegetable, seeds. The healthy food we need to survive comes from plants, but plants need these love messengers to pollinators to move their DNA around. Well then plants need soil and then you go, “Where does soil come from?” And you realize, oh my God, there’s a humongous universe in every square foot under the ground. I mean, millions of creatures, bacteria, mycelium. 300 miles of mycelium in a square cubic soil, a foot of soil. It’s like, wow, and so it’s a shared economy where everybody helps each other, which is a beautiful story. That’s the new story. That’s what’s going to get us out of this mess we’re in right now. This idea of that communities survive better than individuals.
That’s nature’s operating instructions. It’s how it works. It’s nothing that I discovered. It’s nothing that is being told this is how you should live your life. I’m just saying, “Duh, open your eyes, look what’s underneath your feet, figure out how it works.” And that’s possibly a good solution because they’ve been here for two and a half billion years. We’ve been here for like 40 or 50 million years. They know something we don’t know. And if we go extinct, they’ll still be here.
So that’s my passion, I guess in terms of my story is like, come on, wake up. Take a look around at how things work. Let’s not screw it up for us and future generations. Maybe what they’re going through right now is a really good example of slow down, wake up. I mean, I’m in LA and there’s less CO2 in the air. There’s less cars on the freeway. There’s more birds singing in the morning. We can actually live a lifestyle like this. I lived that lifestyle 50 years ago before we had this digital thing where you have to be online every second, and messaging your friends or whatever. This is normal.
Jackee: Okay. Right.
LS: This is normal. It’s been… And if you live in a more rural peasant indigenous culture this is even too fast. That’s the story that getting back to your question it’s really the story I want to tell is for people to wake up, and just to be turned on by nature, turned on by the beauty of it. And guess what, it does have a powerful message in the story. The story of community, of how everything is interconnected, how life is all one giant energy from the smallest microbe to us, we’re mega giants. We got a trillion cells in our body. How does all that work? Who’s keeping all that stuff together and organized? That’s the wonder. How does it all work? Let’s figure that out, so we can live happy, healthy lives.
Jackee: What do you think the fungi network and the mycelium network, how do they solve, or what did you learn about problem solving? And the reason I ask that is because, okay, so we’re in this new epidemic which is forcing us I feel to, like you said stop and smell the roses, which is very positive. But it’s so soon that I don’t… I’m optimistic. But there’s a lot of problems in our culture and within humanity and our ability to love one another and work together. And so, I’m wondering, I think there’s a lot we can still learn about problem solving and solutions to the egoic parts of our personalities and behaviors or the shadowy parts of our behaviors that keep us from working together constantly. And I’m finding this in the psychedelic space too, which is extremely heartbreaking, and surprising to me because of what we’re talking about. So, what can mycelium teach us in terms of problem solving?
LS: What’s really beautiful about the mycelium network is that they are changers, edge runners. At the very tips, they pen out like an enzyme because the way they digest their food is by dissolving it, and then they absorb it. So, they have an external stomach, and they have an internal stomach. We’re very similar to fungi and mycelium in that way. We have to ingest energy. Plants can take light energy, and turn it into energy. We have to eat things as animals that’s what the mushrooms do. They decompose matter.
But at the very tips, when they put out these enzymes, they don’t know what they’re going to encounter, a friend or foe. Is that a virus that’s going to eat me, or do I need to eat it? Is that food or not? So they always have to come up with a new chemical formula. They have to be inventive as they reach out, constantly exploring the environment. Doesn’t have necessarily eyes or ears, but has some type of sentient intelligence to be able to encounter the environment, and be able to either partner with it or not. And it has to always be evolving and it has been evolving successfully for billions of years by having that adaptability to adjust to the environment. And so, maybe that’s part of the answer in terms of the human condition is to be able to be adaptable, and to be change agents. We are changers.
Jackee: Yeah, agents of change.
Jackee: I love that. I love, you know, the first cover of High Times Magazine ever in ’73 was a girl kind of like this eating a mushroom. It wasn’t a psilocybin mushroom. It was like whatever a white cap that you get at the grocery store. But when you talked about our similarities of the human species eating things, and the mycelium doing that well as well, I thought of that cover, and I’d love to bring that back. Maybe I will.
Jackee: Do you work with Paul Stamets in this film, and Michael Pollan, of course, who is really helping to, in his book two years ago, bring this new psychedelic renaissance into the mainstream. I love how Paul… I forget the exact quote, but refers to mycelium as aliens in a way, and I love that because every time I take psilocybin I think about that. I think about our obsession with aliens as these sort of E.T. looking things. And then, but no, actually, the aliens are already here. We’re the aliens. The plants are the aliens. We’re all aliens. And so, what was it like working and collaborating with these people from the mycelium and also the psychedelic space?
LS: Well, with Paul, it’s really easy. And I have this relationship with all the scientists that I work with. Like on Wings of Life and Mysteries of the Unseen World, that’s a 3D IMAX movie is that artists and scientists share something really giant in common, which is wonder and awe, and that’s the intersection I think between two. We have different ways of describing what we do. Artists have the latitude of telling stories, whereas scientists have research protocol that they have to report in a certain way, but they’re doing the same thing. They’re saying, WTF, what is that? How does it work? Why? What? Who? When?
And that’s what we’re doing as well. And so, it’s beautiful to be able to collaborate with scientists and Paul is like that because he is like a big kid in many ways. Just like getting super excited, and passionate about mushrooms. People probably laughed at him 20 years ago before he had a successful business selling mushroom product. But even skeptics, I think, have to admit he’s been enormously successful on many levels. I think in terms of the research he’s done, in terms of figuring out how many of these mushrooms can help heal your body is really important information that has helped a lot of people. We’re working also with the folks at Johns Hopkins. It’s a whole other arena of the ability to be able to help people with depression, with PTSD, with end of life anxiety. It’s a beautiful thing that there can be options and solutions for people that are suffering like that. And especially for people that have never had sacred medicine. It’s an amazing opportunity to get a broader perspective on life.
One of my favorite lines in the entire movie is from Tony Head, who was a patient at Johns Hopkins in the movie. And he said that when he lost his fear of dying, he embraced living, which was a major factor, I believe, in him being able to fight the prostrate cancer that he had. Imagine, you’ve got this physiological thing going on. At the same time your head is going through major anxiety. I might die. What is death like? What’s going to happen to me? I mean, it’s just, I can’t even imagine the combination of a physical ailment, and a mental existential threat at the same time. And if these medicines can be beneficial for some people, like, “Oh, my God, why not? How beautiful?” And I think it should be offered to anyone who is in need of it, anyone who wants it, and it should be explored with a lot more deeper, compassionate, and scientific exploration as well.
Jackee: I think so too. You seem like a really… Like a guy who’s done a lot of work on himself and you seem really grounded and have an ease about you. You also, so you’re making films to help, which I love, and you’re making good films to help-
LS: Thank you.
Jackee: …which is rare. And you did a film I believe called Gratitude at one point.
Jackee: And I bring that up because gratitude is something that’s talked a lot about in the health and wellness space where I’m from. It’s starting to be talked about a little bit in the more mainstream psychedelic space, and I don’t know that we’ve cracked it yet. Cracked the code on how to illustrate the usefulness of a gratitude practice in wellbeing and your everyday wellbeing, but I’m curious about your gratitude practice, and how, and when, and why that’s important to you?
LS: It actually might be a film that will be coming out next. I mean, my gratitude video was part of a TED talk that went viral. And I didn’t realize that would happen. But it’s gotten so many millions of views, I thought, great that’s wonderful for people to be inspired by it. And I feel that in a sense, the filming of nature and gratitude are both connected, and I’ll tell you why. And maybe that’s the easier feeling because it all comes full circle. When you do a deep dive into a flower, or a beautiful landscape, and then you become present, which is what most meditative practices are all about. And time slows down and there you are, like either staring at the lizard or staring at the flower, or the leaves shifting in a tree, whatever it is that grabs you like that. And you become present then you come into the moment.
And when you come into the moment, that opens up a door to gratitude because then you experience this intense feeling of appreciation and gratefulness for this incredible gift of life. And it fills you up where there is no room for any negativity to actually come into your brain. You’re totally filled with this feeling. You’re in the moment and you’re experiencing the divine. And then after that high, and maybe you’re back in your apartment, you can remember that experience. And you’re grateful for it. Whether it was the moment with nature or whether it was hanging out with your lover. These little magic moments that you remember that you’re grateful for, your friends, your family, some peak experiences you’ve had to have gratitude for that, and that fills your heart all the time.
You can always go back to that when having… And believe me, I’m a flawed human being. When I go through anxiety, and I’m feeling like, ah, I go to, position this gratitude. I mean, think about what can I be grateful for right now? I have five fingers on my hand. Yeah. Am I healthy? Yeah. I mean, I can easily find a bunch of stuff to be grateful for. And that just starts me to get out of that negative spiral. It’s like, “Whoa, put on the brakes for a moment. There’s so many things to be grateful for.” Look at the color of that red hat of yours. Oh, my God. I could just be grateful for that. So, just five little things and start to build on it. before you know it, boom, you’re saved.
Jackee: Yeah, I find that, like the hand example that you used. Even just finding one thing in a moment when you’re in a negative spiral is so useful in getting you out of it or at least beginning to get you out of it. And then going into nature for me physically going, I don’t know, the forest where it’s quiet. It’s like a hack, right? It’s kind of like a hack to get you immediately out of whatever crazy mind loop you’re in of negativity. Let’s talk about shooting, like subject matter. What is your favorite thing to shoot? You’ve shot a lot of live animals too, I believe, right?
Jackee: And the how seemed so exciting to me as a kid growing up with National Geographic. Those videos like the VHS was what I would watch with my babysitter and then flip through the pages. And I can remember when Planet Earth, the first one came out. Oh, how revolutionary that was, how amazing it was. These days it seems to have turned a little bit like you said earlier, a little bit super masculine. It’s like kill or be killed. It’s like, we’re a little sad. I’m not sure who enjoys watching that. But it’s a lot about the zebra being taken down by a lion in high def, which is like…
LS: As I said earlier that we need to talk about the feminine side of nature by far. They both are… They exist, there’s a male side, there’s a female side, not even making a judgment. But if all we have is predator versus prey, and kill or be killed, which by the way Darwin survival of the fittest was a really tiny fraction of what he wrote about. He has books and books about botany, and how everything works together. The political spin that was put on it in the 1920s when we were invading third world countries, imperialism. It was just a vacation for white guys invading countries of people with color to say we were smarter and stronger, and we have weapons.
And so, that was a way to justify really immoral, unethical behavior. But that story, unfortunately, has been continued, right? It’s in all these narratives. Whether it’s the bad guy and the good guy and… I mean, it’s like –
Jackee: On Hollywood too.
LS: It’s violent. It’s this constant violence. I mean, there isn’t a ton of violence in mother nature. You see the tip of it on the top of the food chain, but the reality I just said, like in the handful of soil, there’s a billion interactions going on. They’re all cooperating. They’re all living together. What’s going on? That is, in my opinion, a beautiful story. So we don’t have to always be pressing the adrenaline button of kill, of watching blood in movies as well, horror movies, action, adventure violent movies where people get tortured and shot and killed. It’s like, well, duh, you’re going to get an adrenaline rush. How about getting an adrenaline rush on beauty? How about getting an adrenaline rush on getting high? How about getting an adrenaline rush on being in love? Those are valid emotions too that put all kinds of endorphins through your bloodstream. And I shoot people. People are nature. So, I’m interested in shooting anything that celebrates life.
Jackee: Do you think that with the recent Time’s Up movements, do you think Hollywood’s heading in a new direction of more divine feminine and projecting that in a way that’s true to what you see in nature?
LS: I hope so. I mean, I think it’s going to be slow. I think having women, more women in your direct films, and getting them more involved in all the aspects of the creative process will hopefully bend that curve. But the other part of it is the economics. If women directors make thrillers and horror films because that’s what the track record is on making money. Well, how do we break that paradigm? I’m trying to break that paradigm with the support of you and everybody who’s listening in. We filled theaters. We need to support this new story. Filmmakers that are sharing nature’s intelligence, and we can beat that paradigm, regardless of the gender, or whoever’s making the movie, I think we have to shift the story, and we have to get more women involved at the same time. Because if we’re telling the same old story, then it’s not the feminine side of nature.
Jackee: Yeah. And I think we can do both. I think we can change the story, and we can also… People can still make money off of storytelling, so that they can make more stories.
LS: Of course, and you know what? Fantastic Fungi is doing it. It’s not like we’re mega. But we’re one of only nine films last year to get 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Those are critics that are looking at Hollywood movies, and we’ve we sold out over 100 theaters all without advertising, just by mycelial network getting people to show up. And the ability to be able to, before the Coronavirus, gather together and feel a sense of community. And now because of the virus we’re doing the community experience virtually, which is also cool. I mean last Thursday, we had over 101 countries join our webinar. Now, we never could have quite accomplished that in a single theater. We were trying to do that by connecting theaters all over the world. And we did. We’ve sold out London, Prague, Stockholm, Cape Town, Paris. I mean, just think about that, that the fact of this feeling of connection, of community, of this we are one planet. This pandemic has shown us we are all in this together. It is global.
So, for us to feel that global connection with like-minded people who through common sense just want to protect life, it’s not a big deal. It’s not a political belief. Either you’re for life, you’re not for it right. You know, right?
LS: It’s pretty simple to me. I don’t want to pollute the air, and pollute the river, or pollute the water. Even as a businessman, I think it’s bad for business if everybody dies. So, let’s just get on board and do whatever it takes to make a healthy environment. And we could all have our own belief systems, but let’s just make the world healthy again.
Jackee: Yeah, I love that. I love that approach of we can have our own belief systems, and they don’t have to align, but there’s a common sense part of it where just by being human 99% of us we really ask ourselves and we’re really honest, we agree. So, it’s fine; let’s meet on the things that we agree on, and not get so focused on the things we don’t agree on, but also allow space for that.
LS: Sure. Well, I think we all want healthy food, healthy environment. I mean, either you want to be alive, or you want to be dead. It’s a pretty black and white decision that I think most people would probably say I’d rather be alive.
Jackee: Yeah. I can’t stop thinking of our Texas governor. Forgive me for not knowing his name. I’m no longer living in Texas, but I think he very recently was pro not life in favor of the economy surviving, which I thought was pretty funny.
LS: Right. Yeah, capitalism.
Jackee: Yeah, I think he might sing a different tune if he were actually faced with it. It’s easy to say, “Oh, well, it’s my time to go. It’s my time to go.” And then you’re faced with life and death in that moment. Let’s talk about new technology. You’ve been on the cutting edge of new technology capturing film since the beginning. Is it going to get even better than this new time lapse technology that we’ve been seeing for the last 10 years? What’s the in-home experience going to feel like in the future?
LS: Oh, it’s great. So, as I mentioned earlier, I was inspired by guys like Edward Weston, Ansel Adams. These are guys that shot four by five, eight by 10 negatives. So, I’ve always been a fan of resolution starting way back then. And think about where are we today? What the coolest technology advances especially for home entertainment is we went from NTSC to HD, a big jump. Then we went from HD to 4K, and now there’s 8K TVs. So, I think at 4K, you’re almost equal to the visual acuity of the human eye. So, there you are. This window, this TDB monitor, digital device can literally be a window to the world where you’re going to be able to see things that the human eye can’t see, especially now that we’re locked up in our house. Think about it.
So, like the series I have on Netflix, Moving Art, it’s just pure music and nature. But you can go to Machu Picchu, you can go to Angkor Wat, you can go to Tahiti, you can go to an old growth forest, and experience the healing energy of it because the rhythms and the colors and the patterns, I believe is nature’s secret language. Some people call it beauty to turn you on, and to understand something on a very emotional level. Nobody teaches you what is beautiful. You feel it, right? So, if you feel it, you’re getting it. You’re getting good medicine. So with the technology improving, and we’re learning our lessons with a pandemic. I mean, even if you had the time and the money to go to Machu Picchu it would be three days of travel. You would be putting out a lot of CO2 traveling on jet aircraft from here to South America, and you’d be surrounded, unfortunately, and here’s the hard truth, by a zillion tourists that aren’t very conscious with their iPhones in your face, not practicing social distancing by elbowing you in order to get the best shot. That’s reality.
I can allow you to experience something that’s a little more beautiful in a sense, more peaceful, and at your fingertips, and also make it available for people that are marginalized. So many people are never in their million years going to leave the city, their country, travel to Africa, they’re never going to see wild places. They’re becoming more and more reserved for the exclusive rich. They’re harder and harder to get to. So I feel good about trying to archive it in a sense for people to experience it. So, if you’re living in in the city and watching it on your phone, if that’s the way it happens, that’s fine. Because we all need to be inspired by this gorgeous, gorgeous planet that can turn us on, that can heal us, that can shift our perception, our consciousness, and yeah, I think it’s a healing modality. There’s no doubt about it.
And with the technology getting… It’s going to enable it, and also it’s getting cheaper and cheaper. Because it’s Moore’s Law. Every year servers, memory is cheaper. Silicon Valley are making these digital devices sharper, more resolution without increasing the price. And that makes Hollywood crazy because these guys all have these libraries. And it’s like all they think about is short term profits. So, they don’t want to have to re-transfer all their work from HD now to 4K because it’s going to affect the bottom line. And don’t mess up the good thing we got going here with our distribution model. I’ve always said, no man, more resolution, more resolution. I want to see everything in that leaf. I want to see every scale on that butterfly. I want to see the hair on the back of the leg of the bee.
Jackee: I love… I think that’s one of your taglines, more resolution, more resolution.
Jackee: And that’s funny because I know a super talented digital artists who her specialty is fixing the high resolution technology of today on famous actresses in Hollywood, so that they don’t look so high resolution or so that… She goes in and digitally softens, which is a cool technology in itself, that that can happen, but now we’re kind of like working backwards. It’s always funny to me.
LS: But that’s kind of like massage the ego. We don’t want to-
Jackee: Kind of.
LS: … and whatever, which is fine. Nature’s pretty proud. I love the fact when a flower opens it says, “Hey, I’m ready, come get me.” I’m not shy. We don’t have to play any games. It’s like, “I’m beautiful and I need you to land on me and move by pollen from here to there because I’m about life. I want DNA to go forward. I want my genes to go forward. I’m just in a cycle. So, this is my job at this particular moment. I’m going to be a flower.” And then your other molecules will be the roots, the other molecules will be the stem. But this is like, “Hey, I’m the reproductive of this organism, so I got to do a good job, right? So I’m going to look gorgeous. And I’m going to just be fucking amazing.”
Jackee: Confidence. Confident flowers.
LS: Yeah, absolutely. When I’m in a field of flowers, whoo. You can feel it. You can feel the energy of saying, “I’m alive. Come get me.”
Jackee: Yeah. And when nature does that, whether it’s in flowers or humans, and going back to the feminine energy, it’s funny how when it’s really pure like that, like pure confidence stepping into what nature made you to be it never feels gross. It only feels gross, and egoic, whatever when it’s distorted a bit, and when it’s not super authentic. And when it’s just shy of being confident. Then it starts to feel shadowy.
LS: Yeah. Well, it’s shadowy because, look, Madison Avenue learned this a long time ago. It’s like, what is beauty? Beauty is not Kim Kardashian. Beauty is not some sexy girl next to a Chevrolet. They know that they can manipulate your buttons by doing certain things to induce you to buy a car or to buy a product. I mean, sex sells, probably well over 50% of all product. But why is that? Okay, well, because in our DNA, we are attracted to beauty. We are turned on by beautiful things, but for a different purpose. Not to be a consumer, and not to make somebody a celebrity, but to be able to just have the feeling, just have this really beautiful, warm feeling. Wow, that’s beautiful, beautiful woman, beautiful flower, beautiful tree, beautiful landscape makes me feel good. It makes me feel closer to the divine.
I mean that, that’s all it is. But it can easily be manipulated, clearly by all the research that’s done. I direct commercials for like 15 years for al the Fortune 100, 500 companies. I mean, I saw it, the reality of that. And I did not put my kids through school. I don’t feel terrible about it. It was the only way for me to be a filmmaker. Back then you had to be in a union, you have to know someone, you couldn’t crack the Hollywood deal. But if I was a commercial director, I could just basically say, “I’m open for business. And I’m the boss and hire me.” So, I saw all of that and I worked with the best costume designers, hairstylists, gaffers, grips, you name it. By working in the commercial industry I got a great education. I worked with the most talented people money could buy, but was good. And so, I learned a lot. How to Make every frame perfect.
Jackee: Yeah, I’m just thinking of Mad Men, not to be confused with MedMen, the beautiful work of art that is Mad Men. And yeah, in the early days of advertising and the creativity that went into all of that, and sure there’s a lot of manipulation involved, but not all advertising has to be bad just like not all capitalism has to be bad. And I like to think in the new psychedelic movement with the Reagan administration, D.A.R.E for example, D.A.R.E against drugs was a really good marketing campaign. It was total horseshit and manipulative and a propaganda, or refer madness, for example. Again, really amazing and funny and hilarious marketing in hindsight. So, it’s really going to take really high level storytelling from people like you to get us out of that mess.
LS: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Yeah. Yeah, I think we should all wake up every morning and ask ourselves the definition of what is beauty? See, just think about that. It’s not the superficial thing that advertises. Just always do a deep dive and just keep on re-asking yourself because there is no solid answer. But what is beauty?
LS: It’s a good little practice.
Jackee: Yeah. Okay. Before we close here, what’s the top, I don’t know, three pieces of advice you’d give budding filmmakers or just anyone listening to this who’s forgotten maybe how creative they are and how capable they are at creating things using different mediums? What advice would you give them?
LS: Yeah. I would say that certainly with film and many things, I mean, the technology and the craft will always evolve, it’s always changing. You got to really develop your own voice, and figure out who you are. You can be inspired by a couple of people, but you have to develop your own voice. That’s what you were put on this planet to do. And if you speak from your heart, from your soul, it is authentic. It will touch other people. And your creativity will flower.
Jackee: Wow, I’m going to take that one too. I’m going to take that for myself. Thank you.
Jackee: Yeah, I think the authenticity thing is another game that we play as creators these days because… And personally, there’s what’s inside of me, and then there’s what I’ve been trained to project out into the world and those don’t always match. And so, it’s really finding the confidence to be that flower. To acknowledge that you’re that flower, and that you’re blossoming right now, and that you have pollen, and that’s okay. And to tie it all together into a bad analogy.
LS: No, it’s a good one. We’re all master pollinators with our ideas, with our love, with our art. We are all cross pollinating each other. And that’s the beautiful thing. And it’s about connection, and that builds community. And I really am grateful for this great conversation we had.
Jackee: Yeah. Thank you, Louie.
LS: You got it.
Jackee: Where do you want to send people?
LS: There’s lots of cool information about everything from foraging, to chefs, to psychedelics, to healers, to medicine. And, yeah, just stay in touch because we’re just mushrooming out. We don’t have a plan. The plan is being orchestrated by the mushrooms. So, when everybody said, “Stick it on Netflix.” Well, we didn’t automatically do that. We ended up going into people’s… Into art house theaters, and we were bringing people together to have conversation. And we are now evolving to virtual theaters, and virtual collaboration and community conversation. And so, what’s around the corner? I can proudly say, I don’t know. We’re going to let it unfold, right?
Jackee: Yeah, that’s brave.
LS: unfold together, and it’ll be-
Jackee: I love it.
LS: It’ll be perfect.